Editor’s Note: This week we welcome David Hundert as guest blogger!
As we learned in the previous post, one way to apply the principle of “love one another” is to make it our goal to strengthen each other’s faith. Why is this important? How can we remember to do this?
To attempt to answer that question, consider what Paul writes in Romans 12:5, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Paul, working from the assumption of the unity of the body, argues for the need to recognize a healthy diversity within that one body. That means it’s okay for us to be different and still be part of the same body! We don’t all have to belong to the same political party. We don’t all have to root for the same football team. We all don’t have to enjoy the same hobbies. What we do have to do is remember that we are all different parts of the same body, and love one another. We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we can remember and respect each other as members of the same body and remember that we belong to one another.
How can we do that? Just a few verses later, Paul continues this thought. In Romans 12:16 we read, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.“
So we are commanded to live in harmony with one another and Paul tells us how. We have to abandon our pride and be willing to associate with all people regardless of their station in life. To add to this, just a few verses earlier in 12:3, Paul makes it easier by saying, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.“
Paul is saying the same thing: Don’t be proud. Don’t think of yourself as more than what you are. It’s a lot easier to treat everyone else the same when we realize that we are no different. We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we can remember that just as we deserve to be treated, we should treat others because we are no better than anyone else.
You say, “But Dave, I don’t do that. I don’t think of myself as better than anyone else. How can I do that if I’m not treating others as if I were better?” Take a look at how Paul responds to this question in Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
I know that we don’t mean to most of the time, however all of us in our own little ways, can be guilty of judging one another. Someone walks up to you for the first time and what do people say? First impressions are important, right? Why is that? Because we tend to pass judgement. Some people call it a “snap judgement.” We have preconceived ideas about people. The Lord says, “No! Don’t do that!” When we pre-judge, we are putting a stumbling block between the other person and us, and that stops ministry in it’s tracks! We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we stop standing in judgment over one another; because God has accepted each one of us, and it is to Jesus our master who has redeemed us, and not to anyone else, that we are answerable!
If you’re thinking,”That’s great, but how am I supposed to do that? What can I do to make sure that I’m treating everyone equally?” look at Romans 14:19 where Paul writes, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Having made “peace” a basic feature of the kingdom of God, Paul now encourages the Roman Christians to “pursue…those things that make for peace.” This is an active effort. It’s a continual effort. This means when you do something that someone else takes offense at, you actively pursue the reconciliation of your relationship with that person.
Someone told me a long time ago that the reason someone might feel offense, is because they feel they “have a right to” something. For instance, you’re driving down the highway and someone cuts you off. You get angry. You get indignant, thinking, “How can that person do that to me? I had a right to be there in that lane at that time and that person put their needs above mine. They put my family’s life in jeopardy because they valued what they were doing above me! How dare they!”
Brothers and sisters, we are bondservants. We were bought and purchased by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have no rights! We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we remember that we are called to be servants to all, which means as servants, we put the needs of those around us above our own! I know that this can be tough to hear, and it’s even harder to put into practice, but this is exactly what Paul is calling us to. Put your own needs and rights aside and pursue what leads to peace and mutual edification or mutual growth.